What started as a tractor-trailer's mechanical failure ended with a multi-car pileup that took the lives of two people on the New Jersey Turnpike early Christmas Eve morning. According to New Jersey police, the multiple car accident occurred when two wheels flew off the tractor-trailer into traffic, causing a nearby vehicle to crash into another. When a passenger in that vehicle got out to inspect the damage, he was struck by another car and killed. And when that driver exited his vehicle to help, he met the same fate.
According to police reports, the tractor-trailer was traveling southbound on the New Jersey Turnpike's eastern spur near Ridgefield at approximately 7 a.m. on Christmas Eve. Suddenly, two wheels came off the truck, striking a nearby car, which subsequently crashed into a Ford Windstar. When a passenger in the Windstar got out of the vehicle to examine the damage, a Chevrolet Astro struck the Windstar, driving it into the passenger and killing him instantly.
The tragic motor vehicle accident became more so when the driver of the Astro exited his car to help, only to be struck and killed by the Windstar as it was sideswiped by yet another vehicle. One other crash followed, and when all was said and done, five vehicles were damaged, not including the tractor-trailer that started it all.
In regards to that tractor-trailer, New Jersey State Police Sgt. Stephen Jones says the investigation is ongoing. "At this point it appears to have been initiated by a mechanical failure," Jones said. "The truck that lost its tires has been impounded pending an examination by our commercial vehicle inspection unit."
In addition to the two fatalities at the scene, five others were injured, including a pregnant woman who was a passenger in one of the vehicles involved. All were taken to nearby hospitals with minor to moderate injuries, treated, and released. The southbound lanes of the Turnpike were closed for the next several hours.
Source: The Star-Ledger, "String of car accidents result in fatalities on N.J. Turnpike", Matt Friedman, 24 December 2010